This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Nathan Chesmore, co-founder and scientific director for Agulos Biotech. 

This Lake Mills-based company produces a serum product based on blood plasma that is commonly used by other biotechnology companies for growing cells. Most of these companies use a competing product called fetal bovine serum, he explained. 

“It’s something that is sort of the incumbent product that everyone would like to get away from,” he said. “It’s incredibly unique because it’s a product that you can’t intentionally produce, so you can’t actually send pregnant cows intentionally to the slaughter line. It’s something you can only produce as coincidence. So that leads to certain problems with supply and pricing.” 

He said biotech firms are sometimes unable to obtain any fetal bovine serum due to these challenges, which throws a wrench into production of antibody testing kits and other medical products. 

Chesmore said his company’s product is “much cheaper” than fetal bovine serum, and highlighted other benefits. 

“Typically customers can use much less and it causes cells to grow faster for about as wide a variety of cell lines that you’d find FBS works for,” he said. 

Looking ahead, he said Agulos Biotech aims to move to serum-free and animal-free formulations in the future. 

“We’d like to isolate the specific growth factors to use in serum-free media, which for regulatory reasons, people tend to like,” he said. “There’s not as much of a risk for viral contamination and other variability that comes from having all the other components that are present in animal serum. We’re getting pretty close to having a product that can replicate all the performance of serum.” 

Listen to the podcast below, sponsored by UW-Madison: